Technology

Moving up the green energy charts

 By Amanda Saint

Geothermal is emerging as an valuable green solution for meeting growing energy demands. Late 2015 alone saw several new projects and potential collaborations announced around the globe. But why is it becoming so popular…?

Well, because it’s green and sustainable. It can help us clean up our carbon act and keep the lights on as the worldwide population continues to grow. In fact, it’s being touted as one of the best renewable energy solutions for meeting Southeast Asia’s rapidly rising need for power, which is forecast to grow by more than 80% in the next 20 years.

How does geothermal energy work?

It is energy created by capturing and converting the heat generated from the earth, which we see escaping in hot springs and steam vents in many countries on every continent, bar Antartica.

Potential sources that can be harnessed to create power from geothermal energy include the shallow ground at the earth’s surface, where the temperature of the upper 10 feet stays relatively constant somewhere between 50° and 60°F (10° and 16°C). Going deeper than that, we can also use the hot water and hot rock found a few miles beneath the Earth’s surface, and potentially go right down to the extremely high temperatures of magma. Get more detailed information on the process here.

This heat can be used to create electricity on a large scale to feed into national grids, or small scale heat pumps can tap into it directly to heat our homes and offices.

Geothermal power generation

New geothermal projects

In late 2015, the Japan International Cooperation Agency announced that is going to develop 22 geothermal sites it has identified in Ethiopia, with the first stage of the project focused on expanding an existing site at Aluto Langano to produce 70MW of power.

Iceland is almost completely powered by geothermal energy and the UK is looking into ways to import some of it through a new subsea cable. It’s a project that has been looked at several times in the past but one that is looking more likely to go ahead now. Although a costly endeavor, according to the National Icelandic Power company, Landsvirkjun, it would reliably provide enough energy to power around 1.6 million British households.

A new geothermal power plant project was confirmed for Croatia, which will be the country’s first. It’s due to be completed and fully function by the end of 2016, providing 16.5MW of Croatia’s power.

Geothermal energy is providing less than 10% of the world’s electricity today, but its position in the renewable energy charts is set to rise significantly in the next few years.

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about the author
Amanda Saint
Journalist and content writer, specialised in engineering and technology with a focus on environmental sustainability, urbanisation and biotechnology.